An old school Norwegian

Casper Ruud applauds the crowd after qualifying for the US Open final. / EP

Casper Ruud does not respond to the canons of modern tennis, he follows in the footsteps of mythical Nordics like Borg, Wilander and Edberg, and also fights like Alcaraz for his first big and world reign

Ignatius Tyko

The emergence of young people with enormous talent and physique polished to the most hidden muscle, such as Carlos Alcaraz or the Italian Janick Sinner, has been a breath of fresh air for a sport that could languish in the near future due to the decline of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, still very much in force in the case, especially of the Serb and the Balearic, who could perfectly have left New York as number one in the world.

The man from Manacor was stopped short first by the American Frances Tiafoe and then by the colossal protagonists of the very final this Sunday in Flushing Meadows. Alcaraz, very worn after battles in the quarterfinals and semifinals against history, will play his first big against an enemy that responds more to the stereotypes of classic tennis than modern.

Casper Ruud (1.83 tall and 73 kilos in weight) is a Nordic of the old school, with a classic profile, far from the media noise, from the big headlines, from that endless number of videos and images that flood social networks for consumption mass of the youngest. An efficient guy, apparently calm, who has made his way almost against the tide in this dizzying tennis.

Norwegian, 23 years old, Alcaraz's last obstacle to glory carries the racket world in his veins. He is the son of Christian Ruud, a sober but more limited tennis player who became number 39 in the world in the 1990s and now trains him. Defeated in three sets by Rafa Nadal in the last Roland Garros final, Casper is almost another rookie like Alcaraz who could be number one on the circuit with only one Grand Slam in his possession. To date, he is the winner of nine ATP titles, none of a record higher than an ATP 500, the third category in prizes, and eight of them on clay.

His growth this year has been exponential, with that final in Paris and the defeat precisely against Alcaraz at the summit of the Masters 1,000 in Miami as the most meritorious achievements. In addition, he won in Buenos Aires, Geneva and Gstaad, always on clay. He adds 44 victories this year, the same as the British Cameron Norrie and only surpassed by the 50 of Alcaraz and the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas. Until this year, however, his best Grand Slam result was the fourth round at the 2019 Australian Open. In the other precedent with the Murcian, the Viking also fell in Marbella.

Brought up in the heat of the Balearic Islands at the Rafa Nadal academy in Manacor, the pragmatic Ruud likes Spain and its traditions, but claims the ancient tradition of tennis. He is one step away from appearing in the books as the fourth Nordic tennis player to reach the top, after that trio of insurmountable Swedes made up of Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg. Big words.

At this point, Ruud has that final against Nadal in Paris very present. A lesson in tennis, humility and life. "I took a good beating against Rafa," he recalls sincerely. "But now I know what I'm up against and I'm more prepared because I know how to play five sets. That experience helped me learn. I am very confident and have improved my performance on hard courts a lot. I have earned the respect of others,” adds Ruud. The battle to reach the New York sky and the world top is served.

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